Game 13 – Belk Bowl
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
Tuesday, Dec. 31; Bank of America Stadium; Charlotte, N.C.
After opening the 2018 season at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte and playing the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Battle of Bristol in 2016, Tennessee football will meet a school that should still be a natural rival in the Belk Bowl for this year. It will be the perfect matchup.
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Virginia Tech will likely finish behind the Cavaliers, Miami Hurricanes, Clemson Tigers and Syracuse Orange in the ACC standings. Meanwhile, the Vols are going to be a middle of the pack SEC team, and those middle of the pack teams go to places like the Belk Bowl, especially since that bowl specifically prefers East teams.
There’s a chance UT gets the TaxSlayer Bowl invite instead, but at this point the Belk Bowl is on the same level. So this is where the Vols will end up, and they will meet again with Justin Fuente and a VT team that likely will be flirting with a top 25 finish.
Although UT will likely be more excited about playing in this bowl given its history, Virginia Tech is still going to be pretty pumped to face a program like the Vols. So this is another game that could go in any direction if it happens.
VT is more experienced this year, and Justin Fuente is a creative enough mind that a month to prepare should allow him to give the Vols trouble. Also, Jeremy Pruitt is not going to be focused on winning a December bowl game after assuring he had a winning record in the regular season. He’ll already be turning his attention to recruiting for 2020. So Virginia Tech wins this round.
Virginia Tech: 35 Tennessee: 24
Season Recap: 7-6 (3-5)
Tennessee football will likely be looking to take a major step forward in Jeremy Pruitt’s second season. But inexperience will lead to inconsistency, so this is much like a first year for many coaches of big-name programs given what Pruitt inherited. As a result, the Vols will stumble to 7-6 but still take pride in getting back to a bowl game and back above .500.